Italian MPs reaffirm Italy-Saudi Arabia friendship after tensions rise between the two countries

While Italy blocked exports of arms to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, 20 Italian MPs co-signed a letter to reaffirm the strong relations between Italy and Saudi Arabia. Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio announced the arms export ban on Jan. 29.

“This is an act that we considered necessary, a clear message of peace coming from our country. For us, the respect of human rights is an unbreakable commitment,” Di Maio said in a statement. Humanitarian groups hailed the decision as “historic,” because it will impose a complete blockade on sales of weapons to the Gulf countries.

The blocked sales were part of a total allotment of 20,000 missiles worth more than 400 million euros ($485m) agreed in 2016 under a centre-left government led by former Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, human rights group said.

In this context, 20 MPs from different political groups co-signed a letter reaffirming the importance of keeping good relations between the Republic of Italy and Saudi Arabia, mentioning the history of the diplomatic relations since 1932 (Italy was was one of the first Western states to recognize the Kingdom). The note is promoted by the Italy-Saudi Arabia friendship group and by its president MP Hon. Elena Murelli. It also mentions the need to keep “strong international cooperation between the two partners strategic for the Mediterranean and Middle East area under the political, economic, commercial and cultural perspective.”

The Italian lawmakers also underlined that the Saudi plan called “Vision 2030” is considered a reference point for the Western world. “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – continues the letter – is among the most important elements of stability in the Middle East area, where international tensions are still strong and where peace and the protection of human rights must be considered priority objectives of the entire international community. This role has recently emerged with all evidence, among other things, for the signature of the so-called Agreements of Abraham, where Saudi Arabia has acted as guarantor, as well as on the occasion of the signing of the Al Ula Agreements with Qatar.”

“The political battle against Saudi Arabia will benefit foreign competition, dismantling of the entire Italian defense industry, an excellence of the Made in Italy,” MP Paolo Formentini (Lega) told Formiche.net.

In another blow to Italy-Saudi Arabia relations, Former Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi came under fierce criticism over the weekend after remarking that Saudi Arabia could be the place for a “new renaissance” and that he was “jealous” of the country’s labour costs. Renzi was taking part in the Kingdom’s annual Future Investment Initiative (FII) event, often dubbed “Davos in the Desert,” held on 27-28 January.

Italy is one of the Kingdom’s top European trade partner. Italy imports from Saudi Arabia totalled US$4.25 Billion in 2019, according to the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade.